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Australia temporarily suspends funding for UN agency providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians

January 27, 2024 at 4:54 pm

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong on May 18, 2023 [Lisa Marie David/Pool/Getty Images]

Australia announced on Saturday that it would temporarily pause funding to a UN agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinians following allegations of involvement by some of its employees in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, Anadolu Agency reports.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement that Australia is deeply concerned over allegations that UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) staff were involved in the Oct. 7 attacks.

“Australia will engage closely with UNRWA on investigation and is consulting with international partners. While we do this, we will temporarily pause the disbursement of recently announced funding,” Wong said.

On Jan. 16, Australia announced that it would provide an additional $21.5 million in humanitarian assistance for those affected by the conflict in Gaza. The new announcement brought Australia’s total humanitarian commitment since Oct. 7 to more than $46 million.

READ: Palestinian Authority calls for immediate reversal of US, Canada funding suspension for UN agency

Wong’s latest statement comes after the UNRWA announced on Friday that it had terminated contracts with several of its employees over their alleged involvement in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

UNRWA was not the only UN agency targeted by Israel, which also blamed the World Health Organization (WHO).

In an X post on Friday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reacted to Israel’s allegations at an Executive Board meeting on Thursday.

“WHO refutes Israel’s accusation at the Executive Board meeting yesterday that WHO is in ‘collusion’ with Hamas and is ‘turning a blind eye’ to the suffering of hostages being held in Gaza,” Tedros said, adding, “Such false claims are harmful and can endanger our staff who are risking their lives to serve the vulnerable.”

“As a United Nations agency, WHO is impartial and is working for the health and well-being of all people,” he stressed.

READ: Britain, Italy and Finland pause funding for UN refugee agency in Gaza